Vehicle Static

Static electricity ignition source for a gas station fire

Safety Moment #2: Vehicle Static

We have prepared a video showing how static electricity caused a fire at the nozzle of a hose during a routine fuel filling operation. The storyboard (text) for this video can be downloaded here.

Lessons Learned

The immediate lesson is obvious: the lady filling her car should not have moved around while filling the vehicle  in particular she should not have moved on to non-conductive surfaces such as her car seat.

But there are two positive lessons to be learned from this incident. The first is to do with making equipment fail safe, specifically the effectiveness of two safety devices: the fail-safe handle on the fuel hose and the flap on the car filler pipe. When the lady dropped the hose its handle shut off the flow of fuel; all that was left was the small inventory in the nozzle itself, and that soon burned off. And the flames did not start a fire at the car's filler pipe because the flap closed and thus isolated the fuel tank.

The second positive lesson is to do with emergency response; the lady quickly moved away from the situation even though it was not under control. If the fire had spread and she had remained near her car she could have been seriously injured or killed. As it was she moved away to a safe location. Then, the worst case scenario would have been economic loss (destruction of the pumping manifold and her car).

Plant Design and Operations

​Book: Plant Design and Operations Our book Plant Design and Operations, and the associated ScienceDirect ebooks, provides guidance to do with static electricity and with the precautions that should be taken when loading or unloading a tank car or truck with regard to avoiding static electricity as a source of ignition.